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South Korean ferry crew’s desertion ‘tantamount to murder’: Park

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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South Korean ferry crew’s desertion ‘tantamount to murder’: Park | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

South Korean ferry crew’s desertion ‘tantamount to murder’: Park
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Monday the actions of some crew of a ferry that sank with hundreds feared dead were tantamount to murder, as a four-year-old video transcript showed the captain promoting the safety of the same route.

Sixty-four people are known to have died and 238 are missing, presumed dead, in the sinking of the Sewol ferry last Wednesday. Most of the victims are high school children.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and two other crew members were arrested last week on negligence charges, with prosecutors announcing four further arrests – two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer – on Monday.

Lee was also charged with undertaking an “excessive change of course without slowing down” while traversing a narrow channel.

Several crew members, including the captain, left the ferry as it was sinking, ahead of the passengers, witnesses have said.

Park said the crew’s desertion was tantamount to murder.

“Above all, the conduct of the captain and some crew members is unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense, and it was like an act of murder that cannot and should not be tolerated,” she told aides.

Lee, the captain, said in a promotional video four years ago that the journey from the port city of Incheon to the holiday island of Jeju was safe – as long as passengers followed the instructions of the crew.

He also told a newspaper that he had been involved in a sea accident off Japan years before.

The irony of the video is the crew ordered the passengers to stay put in their cabins as the ferry sank. As is customary in hierarchical Korean society, the orders were not questioned.

However, many of those who escaped alive either did not hear or flouted the instructions and were rescued as they abandoned ship.

Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing.

“Passengers who take our ship to and from Incheon and Jeju can enjoy a safe and pleasant trip and I believe it is safer than any other vehicle as long as they follow the instructions of our crew members,” Lee said in the 2010 promotional video, according to transcripts broadcast by regional cable station OBS. He was not referring to the Sewol, which came into service on that route in 2013.

The Jeju Today newspaper interviewed Lee in 2004 when he spoke of close shaves at sea including passing through a typhoon and a previous sinking off Japan.

“The first ship I took was a log carrier vessel and it capsized near Okinawa. A helicopter from Japan’s Self-Defence Force came and rescued me. Had it not been for their help, I wouldn’t be here now.”

The newspaper did not give further details.

I KNOW HOW HE SAID ‘DAD’

Parents of the children missing in the accident in what is likely to turn out to be one of South Korea’s worst maritime disasters sat exhausted from days of grief on Monday, waiting for the almost inevitable news that their loved ones had died.

They have spent all their time since the accident in a gymnasium in the port city of Jindo, taking it in turns to vent their anger at the crew’s inaction and slow pace of the rescue operation.

One of those waiting in the gymnasium was Kim Chang-gu, whose son Kim Dong-hyup is among the missing.

“I dream about him and hear hallucinatory sounds,” he told Reuters. “Somebody told me he was alive but I now have given up. I know how he said ‘Dad’. I keep hearing that.”

Divers are retrieving the bodies at a faster pace and some parents have moved from the gymnasium to the pier to await news.

Others stay put on their mattresses in the gym, where one by one, parents are informed that a body matches a family DNA swab, prompting wailing and collapses.

Two U.S. underwater drones have been deployed in the search for bodies, a coastguard official said. Strong tides hampered operations overnight but the weather was better on Monday.

A clearer picture has started to emerge of the time around the accident after coastguards released a recording of a conversation between vessel controllers and the ship.

Witnesses have said the Sewol turned sharply before it began listing. It took more than two hours for it to capsize completely but passengers were ordered to stay put in their cabins.

According to the transcript, the controllers told the captain to “decide how best to evacuate the passengers” and that he should “make the final decision on whether or not to evacuate”.

Lee was not on the bridge when the ship turned. Navigation was in the hands of a 26-year old third mate who was in charge for the first time on that part of the journey, according to crew members.

The transcript shows crew on the ship worried there were not enough rescue boats to take all the passengers. Witnesses said the captain and some crew members took to rescue boats before the passengers.

Lee said earlier he feared that passengers would be swept away by the ferocious currents if they leapt into the sea. He has not explained why he left the vessel.

Pupils at the children’s school in Ansan, a gritty commuter town on the outskirts of Seoul, set up shrines to the dead and posted messages for the missing.

The vice-principal of the school, who survived the accident, hanged himself outside the gymnasium in Jindo. His body was discovered by police on Friday.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Tourism

Saudi Arabia eases visa restrictions for US and European visitors

May Taylor

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Saudi Arabia eases visa restrictions for US and European visitors | The Thaiger

PHOTO: aawsat.com

American and European passport holders, along with those from most Asian countries, can now apply for Saudi Arabian tourist visas either online or on arrival, provided they meet certain criteria.

Prior to this, the only foreigners allowed to visit Saudi Arabia were usually those travelling on business, resident workers and their family members, or Muslim pilgrims on pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

In an attempt to boost tourism and diversify the economy’s reliance on oil, the Kingdom has expanded the availability of tourist visas beyond what was initially 49 countries. Visitors from eligible countries no longer need to apply for a visa at an overseas Saudi embassy but can do so online or on arrival.

The multiple-entry visa costs approximately US$120, is valid for a year, and permits a stay of up to 3 months on each entry.

However, authorities in the Kingdom were quick to implement a public decency code following the visa announcement.

“Immodest dress and public displays of affection are banned, but foreign men and women may rent hotel rooms together without having to prove they are married.”

A strict ban on alcohol remains in place.

Last weekend the South Korean band BTS became the first foreigners to hold a solo concert in the Kingdom, allowing teenage and older woman to attend without a male escort and allowing them to dance and sing along (in Korean of course). The band, in turn, turned down some of their ‘ab flashing’ and physicality during their record-breaking “Love Yourself” stadium concert in Riyadh.

The septet were invited to perform in Saudi Arabia as part of the Kingdom’s attempts to become more open to foreigners and diversify their income away from oil production.

SOURCE: Reuters

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Opinion

Buddhists call for boycott of Hilton & Waldorf Astoria Hotels with the opening of Siddhartha Lounge

The Thaiger

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Buddhists call for boycott of Hilton & Waldorf Astoria Hotels with the opening of Siddhartha Lounge | The Thaiger

OPINION: The Buddhist Times

Since its creation in 1996, Buddha-Bar Paris has been using the name and image of Buddha in it’s Bars and Hotels throughout the world. Typically the franchises use large statues of Buddha in their Bars and around dance floors and in restaurants similar to a Buddhist temple.

What makes the use of Buddha’s image in these bars most insulting to Buddhists around the world is that Buddhism does not support the consumption of alcohol. So to use the Buddha’s image as decoration to promote the consumption and sale of alcohol and as a prop on dance floors and in restaurants is especially disrespectful and hurtful to Buddhists.

Now comes a further insult with the Buddha-Bar franchise opening the Siddhartha Lounge at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. (Siddhartha Gautama being the full name of Buddha).

According to the Knowing Buddha Organisation in Thailand what the Buddha-Bar franchise is doing is not only disrespectful but it is immoral. The foundation points out that “Respect is Common Sense”.

Buddhists feel hurt by the misuse of the name and image of their father, as people of other faiths would be if the image of Christ or Mohammad were used to promote bars and nightclubs.

The Buddha–Bar, restaurant, and hotel franchise created by French-Romanian restaurateur Raymond Vișan and DJ and interior designer Claude Challe, with its original location having opened in Paris, France in 1996.

Raymond Vișan, according to Wikipedia, had the idea of establishing the chain of restaurants and bars which came from his fascination with the Orient. However at the age of 60 Visan suddenly died of terminal cancer. The franchise was continued by co-founder Claude Challe and Vișan’s wife Tarja, who took over the reins of the Buddha Bar franchise upon Vișan death.

Critics of the Vișan’s and Claude Challe say that these self described artists and creators have created nothing but bad Karma and Sin for themselves. They suggest that Buddha-Bar franchise is a form of “grotesque Plagiarism ” which has merely hi-jacked a 2500 year old religion, using the name and image of Buddha, who imparts peace, compassion and loving kindness, for the purpose of selling alcohol and making money. As any case of plagiarism it is expected that Buddha-Bar and Waldorf Astoria will soon find them selves in the courts say Buddhims advocats.

Buddhist around the world are calling the Boycotting of Waldorf Astoria Hotels Hilton Hotels, Buddha-Bars and the music of Claude Challe, demanding that they stop using the image of Buddha and instead creat their own brand.

The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of The Thaiger or its staff

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Hong Kong

1000s flock to Hong Kong’s Chater Garden for pro-democracy rally

May Taylor

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1000s flock to Hong Kong’s Chater Garden for pro-democracy rally | The Thaiger

PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Last night, Chater Garden, located near government headquarters in the Central district of Hong Kong, was the scene of the city’s first approved rally since the face mask ban came into being about 10 days ago. So far, the face mask ban has been largely ineffectual.

A day after an explosive device was detonated during protests, tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled in the park. They were calling on Washington to approve proposed US legislation that could see some Chinese officials face sanctions.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act aims to review the territory’s special trading status and sanction those responsible for undermining the rights of Hong Kong citizens. It passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee late last month.

The Chinese Government has responded angrily, accusing the US of “interfering in China’s internal affairs” with the aim of harming its interests, and says the law will only serve to worsen the situation in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has been the scene of often violent pro-democracy protests for over four months now, as its citizens call for greater democracy and less interference from Beijing.

SOURCE: The Nation

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